Air medical service provider Air Methods is creating a drone-based, medical delivery network throughout the United States which will deploy a fleet of Wingcopter’s flagship autonomous eVTOL drone, the Wingcopter 198.

As part of a new strategic partnership, the launch of Spright is a newly formed drone solution which aims to help improve healthcare and minimise supply challenges. Wingcopter’s ability to meet production capacity will enable it to create a national network built around Air Methods’ existing infrastructure of more than 300 bases, which serves hundreds of hospitals across 48 states in predominantly rural areas.

This will allow drone technology to flexibly transport essential medical supplies, such as blood, medicines, diagnostics or small medical devices.

JaeLynn Williams, CEO of Air Methods, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated some of the real challenges in our health care system creating an opportunity to find better solutions to extend access to healthcare, especially in rural America.

“That is why we are doing what Air Methods does best, taking to the skies, using the latest in technology and drone innovation, delivering hope and facilitating healing with speed and efficiency that was previously unimaginable.  We see Spright serving a vastly underserved market and playing a huge role in a future full of better outcomes for everyone.” 

Air Methods serves as the nation’s largest and most experienced FAA Part 135 Operator. Delivering lifesaving care to more than 70,000 people every year, the company has nearly 40 years of air medical experience. It is one of the largest community-based providers of air medical services and the fleet of owned, leased or maintained aircraft features more than 450 helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Later this year, Spright will be partnering with Hutchinson Regional Medical System in Hutchinson, Kansas for the launch of an initial pilot project using Wingcopter’s delivery drones. It will provide a proof-of-concept of how it can provide needed relief and certainty for medical resources in rural United States. Additional details on this initial project will be revealed as the deployment draws near.

The Wingcopter 198 uses the company’s patented tilt-rotor technology which allows for vertical take-off and landing, while also enabling efficient forward flight over long ranges and eliminating the need for additional infrastructure.

The drone has a range of up to 68 miles (110km), a maximum speed of 90 mph (145 km/h) and can carry a payload of up to 13 lbs (6kg).

Tom Plümmer, Co-Founder and CEO of Wingcopter, said: “We are thrilled to team up with Air Methods to create a life-saving drone delivery network throughout the United States. “Our technology has been used globally to effectively deliver medical supplies, for example insulin in Ireland, children’s vaccines in Vanuatu, emergency medication in Malawi, and just recently, blood samples in Germany.

“Our vision to ‘save and improve lives’ resonates perfectly with Air Methods’ legacy of providing lifesaving care, combined with Spright’s ambition to improve the quality of healthcare across the U.S. by deploying fleets of Wingcopters, and we are excited about scaling this together.” 

Wingcopter is focused on optimising medical supply chains but in future, the startup will also deliver packages, tools and spare parts, as well as food and groceries. In 2020, Wingcopter was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.